“Where’s the best place to eat around here?” I asked the lineman.
“Well, we’ve got an Applebee’s,” he replied with great pride, “about four miles down the road, on the left, you can’t miss it.”
Rio and I exchanged a critical look. “Uh… any thing more local?” I pressed, “We’ve got an Applebee’s back home, and we always like to try something we can’t get at home when we’re traveling.”
The lineman seemed befuddled by this. “Well… what are you in the mood for?”
Now, Lisa and I made that mistake a few weeks ago when we were in the mood for a steak in a town that didn’t have good steaks. I parried, “What’s the local specialty?”
The lineman hesitated. Fidgeted with his pen, and finally said, “I’m not sure what you mean.”
Clearly he’d never had this sort of conversation before. Clearly my new plan of when in Rome, eat what the Romans are eating, wasn’t working out too well either. The conversation started to go downhill from there, so I placed our fuel order and signed for the crew car.
At the hotel I asked the front desk clerk, “Where’s the best place to eat around here?”
“We have an Applebee’s,” she replied with upbeat enthusiasm, “about two miles down the road, on the left, you can’t miss it.”
“Uh… anything more local?” I pressed, “we’ve got an Applebee’s at home and we always like to try something new when we’re traveling.”
The clerk bit her lip, “That’s pretty much the best place in town.”
I found that hard to believe, but I didn’t press her further.
The gas gauge on the crew car was on “empty,” and remembering the time in Liberal, Kansas when the crew car gave up the ghost on us and left us stranded, we stopped at a station next to the hotel to add a few gallons. I asked the guy at the gas station where a good place to eat was. You guessed it: Applebee’s. When I pressed for local flavor he said, “Well, we’ve got a bunch of Mexican places that are pretty all right.”
We are from New Mexico. This was Texas. Even the best Mexican food in Texas is bound to disappoint.
And you know what? In the end, the Applebee’s was very good.
When in Rome… even if the Romans are eating at Applebee’s.